Written by Dan Hollis
Director and star of Looking For Eric, Ken Loach and Eric Cantona speak to Pure Movies about proverbs, trumpets and Alex Ferguson.
Eric, it was you who approached Ken about the idea. What was it about Ken that made him the director you went to?
Eric Cantona: With my two brothers, we wrote two pages â€“ a story â€“ we wanted to make some kind of movie about me and my connection with the fans. We met a French Production company called Why Not? and the first name we put on the list was Ken Loach. It was a dream. We then met Ken and the screenwriter Paul Laverty; they read the two pages and said, inspired by this we can do something. Paul then wrote his own story which was better than the initial one!
Ken, what was your reaction when approached by Eric?
KL: Well we thought it was a leg-pull really, we didnâ€™t believe it was true. The reality is Paul and I wouldâ€™ve swum the channel to meet Eric. We thought it was a joke but then we found out it was true. It was very interesting because Ericâ€™s thought was to make a film about his connection to the fans which, as we all know, is very special. We wondered if we could ever actually pull it off because you canâ€™t just make a film because you admire someoneâ€™s personality and skill, there has to be a real core and content to the film. Paul then wrote the character of Eric Bishop and that was really the key that unlocked the set of relationships, the narrative and the imaginative connection to Eric thatâ€™s in the film.
Eric, how was it playing this version of yourself, or is this a completely new character?
EC: Iâ€™m proud and glad that Paul decided to develop this part of my personality, so I really enjoyed it. Itâ€™s not more difficult or easier to play a part of your personality, a part of yourself, itâ€™s just another way to work, and Ken and Paul really gave me the confidence to enjoy myself on set.
How good are you at playing the trumpet, and did you have to practice a lot more before the piece we see on film?
EC: When I was banned for nine months I needed to focus on something else. I admire Miles Davis and Chet Baker and I like this instrument so I tried, I practiced for a few months. When I spent a couple of afternoons talking with Paul about different things, life, I mentioned this and thought I donâ€™t know how this could be in the script, but just before shooting, I started practising again for a few daysâ€¦I tried my best!
You impart a lot of wisdom upon ‘little Eric’, do you read much philosophy?
[Note: What Eric talks about in the following refers to the press conference concerning the incident which got him banned for 9 months â€“ deploying a jeering fan with a flying kick to the face. In this particular conference, his only comment was an enigmatic proverb about seagulls chasing trawlers]
EC: Everybody has tried to analyse what I said at the press conference about seagulls, but I didnâ€™t want to give a statement, I just put words after words. The meaning wasnâ€™t in the words, the meaning was in just coming in front of you, saying something that means nothing. They tried to make the situation very serious, and I think in life there are plenty of serious things, and I donâ€™t think the world of football is so serious, itâ€™s important to have a distance about things. If we believe we are king or God, we will become crazy. We all know itâ€™s a game and we enjoy it.
[What I wanted to say: "But Eric, you kicked someone in the face"...I didnâ€™t of course]
You mentioned you came to Ken with the idea in the first place, but how much of what we saw was you and your improvisation?
EC: Everything that was written came from the imagination of Paul, but Ken gives you much freedom to deliver it as you want.
How does it compare working under Ken Loach and Alex Ferguson?
EC: I would like to compare football and acting, theyâ€™re very similar. They are two games â€“ different games â€“ but you work to find the confidence to enjoy it, on the pitch, on the screen. Ferguson as a manager and Ken as a director are very similar, great managing, great directing, and also there is a lot of humanity and a lot of humility. They both always give you the energy; with Ferguson when you play a game itâ€™s like itâ€™s his first game, he is so passionate, he can give you ambition every time. With Ken itâ€™s really very similar.
What were your favourite scenes from the film?
KL: I like the trumpet scene, and when George Fenton was recording the music he was very keen to keep the original Ericâ€™s playing in â€“ he said heâ€™s a great trumpeter but he shouldnâ€™t give up at football.
EC: My favourite scene is just after the trumpet bit where we see the children playing football in the street.
Thereâ€™s quite a lot of violence in the film; what do you think the film says about violence â€“ and violence between men, acted out by men?
KL: I think this is too big a question to be able to deal with in a short answer, I think itâ€™s a huge issue, particularly the issue of guns is a huge issue. Yes violence is a great problem in society. Why weâ€™ve built a society on aggression, on greed, on acquisitiveness. Weâ€™ve destroyed the pattern for young people to become adults, because centuries ago when I was young, a lad could become an apprentice, heâ€™d be off, sent for a left-handed screwdriver, and things like that were a way of absorbing young people into the world of adulthood; weâ€™ve destroyed all that, and weâ€™re now surprised when kids who have no visible future, find they want all the things weâ€™re told we need, and of course resort to violence, to guns â€“ itâ€™s a huge issue, we canâ€™t adequately deal with it now, but good point. The people who create the situation which is going to cause the mass unemployment weâ€™ve got, which weâ€™re told will get worse â€“ we wonâ€™t feel it here, weâ€™ll feel it in the places where Eric Bishop lives.
Eric, Ken, thank you very much.
EC, KL: Thank you.
Last edited: 8th June 2009
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